RIM has launched the first of its BlackBerry smartphones to include high-speed HSDPA connectivity.
Unveiled on Monday, the BlackBerry Bold — also known as the BlackBerry 9000 — includes not only tri-band HSDPA but also integrated GPS and 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi. It is not the first BlackBerry to use any kind of 3G at all — that honour would go to the 8707v, which came out in 2006 — but such connectivity has been extremely rare in BlackBerry devices since then, with the slower Edge standard being used instead.
"The new BlackBerry Bold represents a tremendous step forward in business-grade smartphones and lives up to its name with incredible speed, power and functionality, all wrapped in a beautiful and confident design," said RIM president Mike Lazaridis on Monday.
Based on a 624MHz processor, the device comes with a full Qwerty keyboard, a gigabyte of onboard storage and storage expandability via microSD/SDHC. It also has a 2-megapixel camera and what RIM calls a "half-VGA" screen — the "half" being a reference to the dimensions of the display, rather than its resolution, which is a VGA-quality 480 by 320 pixels.
Ovum analyst Nathan Burley wrote on his company's website on Monday that RIM's move away from slower Edge connectivity could help the BlackBerry Bold become a "worldwide hit". "RIM — like Apple at the iPhone launch — has long been an advocate of Edge," he wrote. "However, arguments about the user experience, battery life, et cetera are inconsequential when carriers and end users are demanding HSPA. It is clear that, although Edge and its evolution have significant prospects, the technology will predominately be a fall-back for HSPA in RIM's key markets, not a substitute."
"Although market-dependent, 3G migration is well under way in RIM's core developed markets," Burley continued. "In many, national 3G coverage is already in place, with 2G/Edge confined to legacy-device support only. Here [Europe], 2G is quickly becoming a discount graveyard — far from the place RIM should position its market-leading handsets. As in other areas of its business, although it is still clearly its largest market, RIM must not allow a North American-centric perspective to blur its potential global prospects."
Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi told ZDNet.co.uk on Monday that the BlackBerry Bold's range of connectivity options will fill "all the tick boxes that operators would want now".
"[RIM is] underlining that they don't only want to target the email crowd but are now pushing [web browsing] and other services like MySpace integration," Milanesi said. "It's not necessarily a consumer push but something that will appeal to consumers, as well as enterprise. The consumer, 'prosumer' and enterprise segments are now really blurring together."